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What is your rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles:

  • Supraspinatus at the top
  • Subscapularis sits at the front
  • Infraspinatus and teres minor sit behind

Their function is to stabilise and control movement of the shoulder joint.

rtator cuff         

How do I tear my rotator cuff?

A rotator cuff tear can occur in two different ways:

  • ACUTE: this type of tear is associated with a sudden traumatic injury, often a fall onto the arm or shoulder, or the lifting of a heavy load.
  • CHRONIC: this is a more common form of rotator cuff tear. This is from repeated damage over time. Frequently from:
    • sports with repetitive overhead activity - like tennis or the throwing of a ball
    • occupations that involve repetitive overhead activity or lifting     

What are the symptoms?

With an acute tear you will most commonly feel a sudden tearing or pulling sensation in your shoulder. This will be followed by sharp pain and a loss of power and/or the ability to move your arm. With a chronic type of tear there will often be a gradual onset of pain and weakness with overhead activities.

What do I do?

Small or partial rotator cuff tears respond well to conservative/physio management. Your physio can settle the pain, restore ranges of movement and gradually introduce and progress a strengthening program. This should allow a good outcome, with the patient able to return to work, sport or daily activities over time.

Complete tears will most often require surgery to repair the damaged structures. Physiotherapy is then very important in the post-surgery protocol, to regain ranges of movement and the full strength of your shoulder. A high percentage of patients regain excellent function at 9 - 12 months post-surgery.

For further information regarding your rotator cuff injury, call Southside Physiotherapy on 9527 4099 and talk to one of our physiotherapists.                                                             


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